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Habakkuk Overview


Author:  The author identifies himself as Habakkuk but nothing is known about his Jewish lineage or where he lived, though presumably in Judah.  His name in Hebrew translates to "embrace."

Date of writing:  Due to the historical context, Habakkuk likely prophesied in the first five years of Jehoiakim's reign (609-598 BC), a king who led his people into evil just before the fall of the kingdom of Judah to the Babylonian Empire.  He would have been a contemporary of Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

Purpose of Writing:  Habakkuk is unusual as a prophetic book because it never addresses the people of Judah directly but consists a dialogue between the prophet and God.  It shows how a prophet suffering from confusion and doubt in the midst of great evil (i.e., the depravity of Judah combined with the forthcoming conquest by the wicked Babylonians) can grow in faith by learning to place all of his trust in God, who will in His own timing work out all things to His glory.  

Summary:  The prophet Habakkuk cried out to God for an answer to two very basic questions, followed by a prayer:

  1. Why had God allowed such sin, degradation, and corruption continue in the land of Judah for so long without being punished? (Hab. 1:1-4).  GOD'S ANSWER:  He was raising-up the cruel and violent Babylonian Empire to utterly crush the land of Judah. (Hab. 1:5-11).
  2. Why would a holy God allow such a wicked people as the Babylonians to come and ravage the land of God's chosen people? (Hab. 1:12-2:1, specifically 1:13c "...remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he").  GOD'S ANSWER:  The Babylonians would be God's instrument of judgment because of Judah's wickedness in forsaking Him. (Hab. 2:2-20).
  3. Having learned to trust God and live by faith, Habakkuk asked for a new demonstration of His wrath and mercy such as God had powerfully demonstrated in the past, and closes with a confession of faith and trust in God. (Hab. 3:1-19).

Key Verse:  "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith." (Hab. 2:4).  This verse summarizes the path of life God sets for His people and is quoted three times in the NT (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38) to reiterate the doctrine of justification by faith.  Unlike the proud ("puffed up") in the beginning of the verse, we are made righteous by faith in Christ because He has exchanged His perfect righteousness for our sin (see 2 Cor. 5:21) and has enabled us to live by faith.

Key Biblical Truths:

  1. God is just and merciful, even though His people may not comprehend His ways.
  2. Wickedness will eventually be punished and the righteous will see God's justice done.
  3. God uses wicked nations to punish other wicked nations, but ultimately God will judge all nations.
  4. The righteous who live by faith will ultimately be justified by faith. 

Application:  Habakkuk shows us, especially in times of despair and confusion, that it is acceptable to question what God in doing, as long as we do it with proper respect and reverence.  Sometimes we can be very perplexed about events taking place around us, particularly if we are suffering in some way or when our enemies seem to be prospering while we are barely making ends meet.  The book of Habakkuk confirms that whatever situation we may find ourselves in, God is sovereign and has all things under His control.  For our part, we need to keep living by faith and trust in God's timing for the eventual outcome of whatever is troubling us, knowing that He keeps His promises.